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JUST GOT OFF the NCL Bliss - My personal impressions (long)

Of course, the first disclaimer is “we all have different interests and likes.” We were excited to sail aboard The Bliss based on many good reviews. I was a little hesitant because of the size and number of passengers. We just returned from the 7 day Mexican Riviera cruise. Weather was meltingly hot and humid in Puerto Vallarta and Mazatlan. Cabo was quainter than we expected.
The good stuff - and it’s almost all good! Large ship, very clean and easy to get around (walking) and navigate. Beautiful art. Fantastic chandelier at Ocean Place atrium! Nicely appointed.
We had a balcony room, which was just fine. The closet is facing the sofa and it was quite awkward to access the hangers. I mean, there was 6” between sofa and closet door. Haha, we moved the bed down just a bit so we could squeeze in. There was room for summer stuff, but it might be tight to stow jackets and heavier clothing if you went to Alaska.
The bathroom was great. The glass enclosed shower was really a nice touch. There was also a little coffee maker in the room, which we used often. We had a mid ship location, slightly forward, and it was not far from elevators except.... (see cons).
We did not partake of any. speciality dining. The Local is open 24/7, and great for light meals. The Korean chicken wings were fabulous. The service was very nice. You could sit “outside” the restaurant, around the atrium, watching things happen, and they would bring you your food.
Taste and Savor main restaurants were very good with very good service. We usually booked a reservation to avoid any wait. After all, there are a LOT of people on this ship. It wasn’t five star dining (i.e., when the waiters come to your table and lift off all the domes covering your food at once, etc.), but we liked it. The appetizers are small, so don’t hesitate to order more than one.
The Manhattan room is larger and a bit noisy. We had the misfortune to go on a busy night with not many table choices. We were sat next to a table of 12 kids (parents were at different table). They were not bad kids...but they were kids, talking and doing all the stuff we all do. I mean, any party of 12 might be a little crazy. However, it took any quiet elegance away from the experience.
The Garden Cafe is their buffet and breakfast is insanely crowded. We loved the Indian food, the soft serve ice cream, the omelette station. Really, things were quite edible. There is free Iced tea, coffee, lemonade and water.
Gem of the ship: The Observation Lounge. This is truly an island of tranquility amidst a lot of action. It’s a large area, with great lounge chairs, views, and ambience. The PErFECT quiet space. Also, Suzanne Jade is wonderful at the Piano!!
The Bliss theater is huge. Get there at least 15 minutes early to obtain a good seat. You need reservations for “Jersey Boys” so do that prior to departing if you can. They also had a production called “Six” which was lots of fun~! They say it will be going to Broadway in the future.
Casino: pretty large with a LOT of slots. Most table games were 10.00 minimum, which meant we weren’t gambling.
If you like pools and slides, you have come to the right place. The kids (of all ages) loved it. There is also “Spice H20” club which is more adult, if you don’t want quite so much frenetic action. The crowd tends to be younger and livelier than on other cruise ships. However, it wasn’t “spring break” antics! Just happy people. Most were super polite and we had some good laughs - especially about the elevator waits.
The hot tubs were plentiful even on busy days. Surprise!
The Gym/fitness had plenty of treadmills but not much more in the way of exercise activities. I think one cardio class that was maybe held there. I do my own thing, but if you are looking for a lot of organized classes, forget it. Bring your own water to center or sip from the fountain. I didn’t try the Thermal Suite, which is a big upcharge. Based on the crowds everywhere else, I’m glad i didn’t. I have a feeling every lounge chair would be booked. That’s not tranquility to me. (Save that for the Haven Lounge, which i’m such is quite refined).
“The Waterfront” was nice to walk around during the day. It wasn’t crowded at all, so we sat there, looking out on the ocean, on one of the days at sea. Peace!
We found the staff to be friendly and accommodating. Our room steward, Roel, was so sweet. We aren’t demanding, but he learned our schedule so when we went out, our room was quickly made up. Thank you, Roel!
Take ten steps in just about any direction in a public area and you will find a very nice bar. I had two drinks on the vacation. They were each 13.30 with the tax and auto tip. A lot of people purchase the unlimited drink package. Keep in mind, even if it is a “free at sea” perk, the gratuities and tips are NOT, and they add up to at least 200.00 dollars - maybe more. - and everyone in your room has to purchase it.
I liked that the smoking area in the Casino was closed off with glass doors.
If you like to be casual, you will LOVE this cruise. There really is no real dress code. People wore shorts and flip flops everywhere except, i believe, in the uber fancy ocean blue restaurant.
The “Cons” I’m going to start with the very worst thing that happened on the ship. The debarkation. I know, it’s always a drag, but this one was a REAL drag. People left their rooms and hung in the stairs well before it was their turn, creating a nightmarish traffic jam everywhere. There were ZERO elevators to take. We survived, but pity anyone who is even slightly handicapped. We literally stood in a roped off line that wended all through the ship, two persons wide: through the casino, restaurants, down the hall, make a turn, etc etc. etc. It took us over 1 3/4 HOURS to debark, and we were carrying our OWN luggage. Customs was a bit slow, but NOTHING compared to (what i felt) the haphazard and thoughtless way to make guests feel like cattle as they departed their vacation. Standing for THAT long, without able to use the restroom, get something to drink, even sit for a second - the absolute PITS.
The obvious solution is to pay through the nose and book “The Haven” where there is preferred treatment. We couldn’t afford that, but, really, that’s the thing to do on this ship.
Disorganized entertainment listings: Using the NCL app, it said that “The Beatles” at the cavern was SOLD OUT. Not “first come, first served” - which is how it really is!!! We finally caught on, but it was very misleading and even the box office wasn’t clear. She said, “oh it’s sold out but you have a waiting line.” No, it’s first come, first served, and maybe a waiting line for people who don’t get in. I have a feeling this also applied to the Social Comedy club and that we missed out, thinking that it WAS sold out.
We didn’t find that many activities to do that we liked. That is just personal. Also, many featured things like “Deal or No Deal” have to be bought into, in order to even get a chance to play. It seemed that we were being nickel and dimed all the time. Some folks would say, “Well, i just pay for what i want and don’t overpay.,” Well said, but i like a more inclusive experience, I think.
Excursions: Glad we didn’t do any based on the crazy crowds that lined up. However, we walked to the marina in Cabo San Lucas, and you can easily grab a little boat trip out to Land’s End for 10.00 - that’s right, 10 bucks - per person. It was really fun and lasted about 45 minutes.
TV selection. I guess this is a cruise ship problem. There were few things to watch on TV. We like to chill in our stateroom in the afternoons, so it would have been nice to grab a movie or series. We saw one only (A STar is born).
Crowds crowds crowds. This wasn’t just our observation. The place can be a madhouse after the end of any show. People crowd the elevator areas and it’s very difficult to get a lift during some hours. VERY difficult. During the “next” cruise presentation, NCL said that except for one ship, future ships were going to be a tad smaller. I wouldn’t rule out a smaller NCL ship.
I didn’t like that they were always pushing the sale of some lotto ticket and chance to win money for the cruise. Like, before just about every show or presentation.
Shopping: o.k. Not as many high end watches (if ya care) or other souvenirs. I’ve seen more on smaller ships. Just saying...
Rooms: our end tables were 6” wide - that’s right, SIX INCHES - and everything kept on falling off. There were nice USB ports on the lamps. I didn’t find myself sitting on the balcony, BUT it was very fun to have when arriving or leaving port, or to grab a wonderful sunset.
In conclusion, this was a very fun cruise for us, and we enjoyed the entertainment, but didn’t find that many other activities to draw us in. (The game shows were held in the very active, noisy Atrium, so they weren’t as engaging as they would have been if held in a smaller club or bar).
All in all, I enjoyed my cruise on the Bliss. I don’t think i would sail her again because the crowd size and constant “pay for this” mentality that left me feeling a little disenchanted. It’s partly our fault, because we aren’t into go-carts and laser tag, which many adored. I think we prefer more of a classic shipboard atmosphere. It was GREAT that it wasn’t stuffy, but sometimes we missed certain traditional things.
Also, the disembarkation was really really awful. They need to spread it out or find ways to manage the hoards better. People totally lost their civility, getting in line 1 hour before their “color” was even called. They packed the elevators and stairwells, preventing an organized exit. This made things almost dangerously crowded and difficult. Then again, pay for the upscale “Haven” and i bet it was an entirely different animal. But one still might venture out into the huddled masses (which is how I felt) and then, ugh, very crowded. They need to explain how the smaller clubs work on the ship (first come, first served) and not say “This is sold out” on the activities app. That was really annoying! I loved ditching the “formal nights” and that nonsense. I like “freestyle dining” although it is still wise to book a table if you also have other evening plans. If you can afford it, “The Haven” is the way to go. It will give you a respite from the crowds as well as a lot of priority perks (including disembarkation). I personally would book a smaller, more upscale ship if i were going to spend that money, BUT if I had teens and pre-teens, might consider this ship because of the water features, laser tag, and track.
This is especially good for young adults and families, as there are singles cabins and plenty of music venues as well as that super water park and scary slides!
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